Hoeven Meets with ND National Guard Aviators Deployed to Texas in Support of Border Patrol

Senator Working on Appropriations Committee to Provide More Funding for Border Security

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.), chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), met Friday in Laredo, Texas with a unit of 35 North Dakota Army National Guard (NDANG) members who were deployed to the southwest border in January to support DHS aerial operations.

NDANG’s First Battalion 112th Aviation Regimen based out of Bismarck has been stationed in Laredo through June to fly day and night helicopter reconnaissance missions.

“Whenever I visit our National Guard, anywhere in our state, our country or the world, I am tremendously impressed with their skill, professionalism and dedication to duty,” Hoeven said. “The current mission of the 112th is providing critical support to our nation's border security operations.”

Soldiers, from states across the country, collaborate in this unique border mission, known as Operation Phalanx, to provide aviation support for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Our Guard is the headquarters unit for the operation and 11 different state’s guard units participate in the joint operation. They work together with the Office of Air and Marine, Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other local, state and federal agencies with operations along the international border. North Dakota airmen fly their UH-72 Lakota helicopters at the request of CBP.

Hoeven said the Guard members are honing their skills as they help protect the border. The mission helps their readiness and gives them flight-training hours, including mechanics hours. They're providing direct support to BP agents on the ground, and making a significant impact in terms of the capabilities they bring to border security, Hoeven said. It’s an all-volunteer mission, but both sides are getting a lot out of it. “It’s keeping us on our toes,” said one airman.

The standard crew consists of three Guardsmen, two pilots and a sensor operator, and one Border Patrol agent observer per aircraft. The ability to combine the agent with the advanced UH-72 helicopter helps provide effective support to border patrol agents working on the ground.

According to the National Guard, the aircraft has a communications package that allows the crew to communicate on secure Border Patrol and other law enforcement radio channels. This capability, along with a high-powered searchlight and cameras with infrared night vision capabilities, make it a highly effective tool for monitoring the border.

Hoeven was in Laredo this week to conduct a four-day review of security operations in Houston, McAllen and Laredo, Texas to assess the needs and challenges of agents working to control the southern border. Ranking committee member Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.) also participated in the mission.

The DHS Appropriations Committee oversees a $40 billion discretionary budget, and the senators spent the last week gathering information on the ground. They are working to provide more border security through funding for manpower, technology and other resources.

Hoeven and Shaheen visited sites to review operations by CBP, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and other vital border security activities.